Comedian and CNN's “United Shades of America” host W. Kamau Bell will perform at the Neptune Theatre on Saturday, May 20, in Seattle.
After returning to CNN with a second season of “United Shades of America,” publishing his first book and producing three podcasts, comedian W. Kamau Bell is returning to his “first love”: stand-up comedy.
The comedian is back on tour and stops in Seattle on Saturday, May 20.
“Anytime I go back to Seattle, I’m excited to be there,” Bell said.
W. Kamau Bell
8 p.m. Saturday, May 20, Neptune Theatre,
1303 N.E. 45th St., Seattle; $23.50-$51.50
(800-745-3000 or stgpresents.org).
Bell’s stand-up comedy addresses topics such as race, politics, marriage and gentrification, mixing current events with his own experiences. It’s been two years since his “Oh, Everything!” tour, which ended with a stop at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in January 2015.
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Since then, he’s been busy producing his CNN travel series, “United Shades of America,” which airs at 10 p.m. on Sundays. In the show’s first season, Bell met KKK members in the South, tiny-house enthusiasts in North Carolina, members of the Latino community in Los Angeles and retirees in Florida. The show returned for a second season April 30.
“‘United Shades of America’ gets me out of my comfort zone, and it gets me into conversations I wouldn’t have had,” Bell said in a recent telephone interview.
This season, many of those conversations are directly linked to national politics. In one episode, white nationalist Richard Spencer tells Bell he’d like to “bathe in white privilege.”
Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidential election, Bell was in Hamtramck, Michigan, speaking with members of the Muslim community.
“Those are people who really had a lot to say and talk about,” Bell said. “I felt like I was having a different conversation than I would have had at home.”
Bell still finds a way to bring humor into these serious situations. Each episode of “Shades” begins with a stand-up segment, and he manages to laugh even when talking to people like Spencer.
One highlight for Bell was visiting Native American activists at Standing Rock in North Dakota. He said he felt “extremely honored and privileged” to be one of the few media outlets permitted to film and interview people there.
“That’s something I’ll never forget, and no one will ever be able to take away from me,” Bell said.
No matter what city or community he visits for the show, Bell said, editing down long conversations about complicated subjects can be difficult.
“The challenge of the show is to get people to open up to you and to feel like, when it’s all said and done, you got to the heart of the conversation,” he said.
Bell has also been busy writing his first book, “The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’ 4”, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad, and Stand-Up Comedian,” which hit shelves May 2.
“In stand-up, you have a joke about one thing and then you have to move on,” Bell said. “In a book, you get to take tributaries off the main line. They are the same ideas, but because it’s a book, and you’re holding it in your hand and reading it, it’s definitely a different version of me.”
Whether he’s on television, in a podcast, or on stage, Bell said he wants his audience to think critically about tough topics. “I’m doing all this work to try to invite people into awkward conversations,” he said.